New graduate program in innovation design added

Innovation is already a hot topic on campus due to the many recent physical changes to the university, but now it applies to more than just new buildings.

On Sept. 16, The Kansas Board of Regents approved a new master’s program for Innovation Design at Wichita State.

Tony Vizzini, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs, described the program as broad and open-ended, and said it is expected to attract students from many different academic backgrounds who wish to harness their creative talents and learn to be innovative in a variety of settings and styles.

“The way the world works is by a combination of different talents,” Vizzini said. “Design is a concept that’s in every single discipline we have here. We’ve got to learn to get away from our narrow views of design, and this is what that degree allows to happen.”

The program is set to start in fall 2016, and Vizzini said admissions will most likely begin this spring, with 20 students as the maximum enrollment for the program’s first year. Prospective students will be selected for admission by the faculty, who will primarily focus on the creative skills demonstrated in a students’ portfolio.

Vizzini said academic credentials will also be considered, but the portfolio is the most important element.

 “We’re not restricting it to conform to a narrow set of standards,” he said. “We’re actually going back to our academic roots and allowing the educational process to be free of unnecessary constraints.”

The proposal for the program, found on the Board of Regents website, states it is unique to Kansas and only offered at WSU.

 “The complexity of today’s technology requires innovators from multiple disciplines to come together as a team and translate ideas into something transforming through nontraditional means,” the proposal reads. “The Master in Innovation Design curriculum will merge Arts, Science and Technology curricula, creating opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate across WSU’s colleges.”

Although it was only recently approved, the program has been in the making for more than a year. It first required approval by the Graduate Council, a team of faculty that represents each college in the university, before it could go to the Board of Regents.

 Rodney Miller, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said the council met bi-weekly during the previous school year to develop the program and voted on it late last spring, where it received an 85 percent approval.

 “We realized that this was a university-wide initiative that should involve all of the deans, so we chose some representatives from each college,” Miller said. “There was unanimous interest. We then put together and developed the curriculum and the program for this degree.”

Miller said he is excited the university is embracing such a modern approach to higher education because students will have the opportunity to utilize divergent and creative thinking skills.

Miller and Vizzini said there are still multiple steps that need to be completed before the program opens, including hiring a director for the newly established Institute for Interdisciplinary Creativity, which will be the program’s home.

According to the proposal, the annual operating costs are estimated to be $160,000, which will come from an internal reallocation of funds.